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published Saturday, March 19th - 5:04pm

The University of Minnesota was looking to replace Tim Brewster as its football coach. Much was made of the attempt by former Gophers to convince the administration to take the hiring power away from Athletic Director Joel Maturi.

The campaign failed and Maturi wound up "settling for'' Jerry Kill, the coach at Northern Illinois. So far, Kill has played well with the public and even those M Clubbers that wanted to see Maturi's power supplanted in the coaching search.

Kill has done this by being the anti-Brewster - by coming off more as a coach than a salesman.

This doesn't mean Maturi is out of the woods with former athletes. There is now an uprising among ex-hockey players, including great ones, against the AD's plan to give a contract extension to Don Lucia.

Even if it's a Brewster-style extension, meaning more cosmetic than costly, there are high-profile former players sending strong letters of protest to Maturi over the three-year collapse of Lucia's program - over the message on Gophers hockey that an extension would deliver.

I got a copy of this letter sent by one of those former Gophers - and one, I might add, that went on to an outstanding NHL career.

TO: Joel Maturi.

"... If you were to poll the former Gopher players from the past along with the season ticket holders and pretty much the rest of the Minnesota hockey community, you would find an 80 percent vote to remove Coach Lucia and his staff.

"Since winning the two national titles [2002-03], the program has struggled - and especially the last few years. Most of the players on the two national title teams were already there or previously committed.

"We know the hockey program is far below its expectations and standards; the program is dying before our eyes. Empty seats, poor performances, top recruits overlooked and players not properly developed.

"There has been a wall built between the alumni and current regime. We can't wait any longer. It's time for a new coach and staff - preferably a former Gopher hockey alum. The pool is rich and deep with prospects.

"I have been bombarded with e-mails, calls and requests to do something about this. We still get some top players because of the school's rich hockey history and its facilities but that's rapidly disintegrating.

"The head coach position at the U of M requires one to wear many hats. On top of being a great coach one needs to be a great judge of talent and a great recruiter. He has to have a solid reputation in the community and have great rapport with alumni and fans. I along with most of the alumni feel [Lucia] has failed in all of these areas.

"To give an extension at this time is premature, to put it lightly. I know this letter is blunt but you can call just about anyone in the hockey community and you will find the same feelings.

"We are turning into the laughing stock of the WCHA. These are words from pro scouts every fall in the Minnesota high school elite league. Gopher recruits have been turning pro early because the teams that draft them don't feel they are progressing at the rate needed to make the next step.

"The proof is there. Other schools promise to help players fulfill their dreams, we deter it. I really hope this e-mail will help you step back and take some time to think over your decision.

"You must have read in the Star & Tribune that there is a 78.4 % vote against a contract extension.''

The letter was signed, but I have elected to delete the name, so it isn't the messenger that gets killed - as was the case with Bob Stein during last fall's controversy surrounding the coaching search.